What Are My Legal Rights As A Renter

Landlord Protection What Are My Legal Rights As A Renter

All You Need To Know About Renters' Rights

Being a renter can be a hassle. You try your best to be a good tenant and to have a roof over your head, but some people are always ready to take advantage of that goodwill. Learn about renter's rights with DoNotPay so that you can be sure things are always on the up and up with your landlord and roommates.

Landlord-Tenant Laws

Landlord and tenant laws vary by state, but many are similar across the country. Some of the most common provisions you'll find are:

  • Landlords cannot enter a tenant's dwelling without sufficient written notice, except in cases of emergency or abandonment by the tenant.
  • Landlords must provide notice before raising rent, usually one rental period.
  • Landlords must fix any reported damage to the property within a reasonable timeframe. If things haven't been fixed within a certain amount of time (usually 14 days to a month), tenants are legally allowed to withhold rent.
  • A lease can only be terminated with cause by either party, meaning neither landlords nor tenants can break the lease agreement for no reason without penalties.
  • Evictions require a certain period of non-payment before they can be filed. This ranges from as little as three days to multiple months, depending on the state.
  • Depending on the state, a landlord has between 14 and 60 days to return a deposit after a tenant moves out.
  • Official correspondence between a landlord and a tenant (the lease, work orders, etc.) needs to be documented in writing. Verbal agreements and the like are not contracts.

What Are My Rights as a Tenant?

Tenants have unique rights and protections while renting from a landlord. Like anything else, these can vary by state, but some of the major points shared in most places are:

  • Tenants are entitled to a clean and safe dwelling while they pay rent.
  • Tenants are not allowed to be locked out of their apartment by the landlord, even for delinquency in rent payments.
  • Tenants may withhold rent if their dwelling becomes uninhabitable.
  • In some cases, a tenant may repair damage to their dwelling on their own and bill the landlord. This must typically be done after informing the landlord of this and in response to a failure on the part of the landlord to repair the dwelling themselves.
  • If a tenant is planning to move out, they have a duty to inform the landlord within a period of time specified in the lease (usually 30 to 60 days notice).
  • If a tenant plans to sublet their space or add or remove a roommate, they need permission from the landlord to do so.

Security Deposit Laws

Most landlords expect a security deposit when a tenant moves in. This sum varies but is usually a few hundred dollars at most. The expectation is that this deposit will be returned once the tenant leaves, provided the space is left in good condition.

What "good condition" means can vary, but it usually means that the rental unit is left clean with little to no additional damage to the space that would not normally come about through everyday use. In the event something is damaged by the tenant upon moving out, part or all of the deposit can be kept.

How to Ask Your Landlord for Repairs

Many apartments have a central forum space where work orders can be submitted by tenants to their landlords. Even without this, emailing your landlord about what needs to be fixed is an easy way to get things going. Be aware that, as stated earlier, verbal notice is not enough to constitute an official repair request, and you must submit something in writing to keep on file.

How Long Does My Landlord Have to Make Repairs?

The law varies from state to state on this issue, but landlords typically have 14 days at minimum to respond to a work order before they're in violation of the law. When this happens, tenants are legally allowed to withhold their rent until the work order is completed.

How to Report a Landlord on Your Own

If a landlord is behaving badly, you may need to report them to authority in order to resolve the issue. Depending on what they're doing, you'll need to take your case to different people. Overall, DoNotPay can make this process a lot simpler with our app by streamlining the process and getting your complaint where it needs to go more quickly. If you wish to try on your own, though, some of the more common issues can be solved as such:

Failure to Repair

  1. If a landlord has not responded to a work order within the minimum amount of time, begin documenting any correspondence you've had about the issue and proof of the issue (photos, videos, etc.).
  2. File your case with the health department, including your collected evidence.
  3. Follow through with any inspections or questions the department has for you so that they can verify your issues.
  4. From there, the health department will take over to ensure that the issue is fixed.

Discrimination

  1. Document any instances of discrimination exhibited by your landlord to build your case.
  2. Contact a Fair Housing Assistance Program agency partnered with the government. A list of these groups broken down by state can be found on the HUD website.
  3. Work with your representative to understand your options and decide where you want to go with your case.

Harassment

  1. The law states that tenants are entitled to live without harassment by landlords for any reason, meaning this is a punishable offense.
  2. Collect evidence of harassment and document any instances.
  3. If the harassment does not stop, you can take your case to the police.
  4. If you ever feel in immediate danger from your landlord or others, call the police immediately.

Stolen Deposit

  1. If a landlord attempts to take your deposit, ask why this is and get their reasoning in writing. Specifically, if a landlord cites some form of damage you've allegedly caused to the dwelling, request to see an estimate on how much is required to fix the damage.
  2. If the facts aren't lining up or you suspect there's foul play, collect your evidence and state your reasoning.
  3. If the landlord is uncooperative, threaten legal action.
  4. If the landlord still does not relent, file a case in small claims court using the evidence you've collected. DoNotPay has multiple products that can help with that, especially the Sue Now service.

Use DoNotPay to Enforce Your Renters' Rights

Enforcing renters' rights can be a challenge all on your own, so it's helpful to have DoNotPay in your corner when it comes time to do something. To get started, just follow these four steps:

  1. Search for and open the Landlord Protection product on DoNotPay. 
  2. Select which issue applies to you. 
  3. Answer a simple set of questions so our chatbot can collect the necessary information to create your demand letter. 
  4. Choose whether you want DoNotPay to send the demand letter to your landlord or roommate on your behalf. If you already tried sending a demand letter and it didn't work, we can help you start the small claims court process. 

And that's it. You should hear back from your landlord directly once your demands are sent.

What Else Can DoNotPay Do?

DoNotPay helps with more than just renting and evictions, however. We offer a ton of different services to our users, such as:

Filing in small claims courtStandardizing legal documentsNotarizing documents
Filing FOIA requestsFinding missing money you can get

No matter what problems you might be having, let DoNotPay take a crack at solving them. Try the app today!

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